H.M.S. Hood Records & Media
"A Torch Among Tapers "
A book by Nixie Taverner

Updated 06-May-2014

This book was written by the daughter of Hood's most famous officer of the mid 1930s, Commander Rory O'Conor. Rory was extremely well respected by the men who served with him. He was subsequently become one of Hood's best loved and best remembered officers. His command philosophy has had a profound effect on the Royal Navy.

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Cover of the book A Torch Among Tapers   Rear cover of the book A Torch Among Tapers
Front and rear covers
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This is a compelling biography of Captain Rory O'Conor RN (1898 -1941), of whom it is said "his flame turned many contemporary tapers into torches" and the Royal Navy has certainly felt his influence ever since. His Naval life commenced in the traditional pre-First World War custom, attending Osborne Naval College then Dartmouth. He was at Dartmouth upon the Declaration of War in 1914. His first appointment was to the pre-Dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Prince of Wales, with active service in the Dardanelles. Subsequently he joined the convoy sloop H.M.S. Anchusa and when the War ended, was aboard the 'W' Class destroyer H.M.S. Walpole.

Shortly after the War he attended a short course at Cambridge. He then served in the Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert. Following his decision to specialise in gunnery he trained at H.M.S. Excellent, Whale Island, where he became Commander 'G'. His skills as 'Guns' were proven at the 1927 bombardment at Nanking whilst he was serving in the cruiser H.M.S. Emerald. Prior to the action Rory had gone ashore ostensibly to 'do some sightseeing'. In reality he was able to reconnoitre the city and calculate ranges and targets for the anticipated bombardment. When firing finally commenced 'Guns' was able to aim at military targets thus saving many Chinese civilians and Foreign Nationals from misery and death. He served in the battleships Barham, Royal Sovereign and Resolution and the apex of his peacetime career was from 1933 to 1936 as Commander of the largest warship in the world H.M.S. Hood.

Written by his daughter Nixie Taverner, well-known for her many educational publications, it chronicles Rory's life and career from his training at Osborne and Dartmouth to his untimely death at sea in 1941 when his ship H.M.S. Neptune, was sunk by enemy mines. It includes a unique record of his three years, 1933 - 1936, as Commander of H.M.S. Hood -known as the 'Queen of the Ocean' - that led to his promotion as the youngest Captain in the Navy and the publication of his famous book 'Running a Big Ship or Ten Commandments.'

Nixie has always wanted to honour Rory's life and memory but only her eventual retirement from teaching gave her the time to sort and utilise extensive family and Naval memorabilia, including bundles of his letters that formed the nucleus of her book. After years of research and writing, her labours have finally resulted in its publication. Now 75 years old, she is delighted that "A Torch Among Tapers" is available in time to help commemorate this year's 60th Anniversary of Hood's sinking. While the Navy is pivotal to the biography, the narrative is cleverly structured so that Rory's career and the lives of his family and friends are interwoven throughout, against a background of world and national events from 1910-1941. It should therefore appeal equally to readers interested in social history and naval affairs.

by Nixie Taverner
240mm x 160mm Hardback 352 pages 46 b/w illustrations. Full colour jacket. ISBN 0 95356703 6
Price: £24.99 including postage and packaging

Available from
Bernard Durnford Publishing
The Old Museum
Bramber, West Sussex, BN44 3WE, United Kingdom

Tel: 01903 816677 / Fax: 01903 816655